Wakefield Trinity spoiled Kevin Sinfield’s homecoming after fighting back from twelve points down to draw 20-20 with Leeds Rhinos at Emerald Headingley Stadium. Read the match report here:
It was almost a perfect start for Leeds, who thought they had scored after just 90 seconds when Mitch Garbutt took in a dropped ball and grounded, however, his effort was ruled out as Justin Horo was taken out in the air from the kick.
The Rhinos were clearly in determined mood in Kevin Sinfield’s first home game as boss, though, and did open the scoring after four minutes when Tom Briscoe offloaded inside as Wakefield looked to force him over the sideline, which allowed the Rhinos to quickly switch the ball to the other side of the field and put Ryan Hall in for the first try of the game.
An error from the restart took the momentum away from the home side, and after holding Wakefield out for two sets close to their own line, Leeds’ defence was eventually breached by a superb long range effort from Bill Tupou, who broke through before fooling the fullback with a dummy and diving over.
Two quick tries then put Leeds in charge midway through the first half. Richie Myler got the first of them when he reacted first to a loose pass from Wakefield to kick through, pick up and slide in for a gift of a four-pointer. Then, a penalty in the very next set put the Rhinos in a dangerous position, and a well-worked move to the left saw the ball reach Ash Handley, who stepped back inside the sliding defence and touched down for his tenth of the season.
But, Chris Chester’s men refused to allow Leeds to run away with the game, and hit back through in-form forward Horo, who picked the ball up 10-metres from the line, isolated Ashton Golding and crashed over the top of him to bring his side back within six points heading into half-time.
The opening five minutes of the second half saw two glorious opportunities to equalise come Wakefield’s way when two high kicks were knocked on by Leeds just yards from their own line, but, Pauli Pauli’s push on Stevie Ward and then Tupou’s incorrect play of the ball meant both chances went to waste.
They were punished for their lack of ruthlessness too, as Liam Sutcliffe kicked a penalty goal for the champions to give them an eight-point lead with half an hour remaining.
Brad Dwyer rather optimistically claimed a try ten minutes later but the video referee’s review confirmed he hadn’t managed to ground the ball after Ben Jones-Bishop had spilled the hooker’s kick.
The game became increasingly more tense as the half went on as Wakefield searched for a way to close the gap on a Leeds team desperate for a win, so when Kyle Wood’s try was controversially given and converted, the pressure was on Leeds to hold out if they were to remain in with a chance of sneaking in to the top eight.
However, Brett Ferres conceded a penalty for a high shot, which allowed Ryan Hampshire to kick a penalty goal of his own and tie the scores at 20 points apiece with under ten minutes left on the clock.
Wakefield’s Jacob Miller had three shots at kicking drop goal, one of which hit the post, but neither side could find a winner in the final minutes and the points were shared.
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED
Leeds’ fate almost sealed
After Huddersfield’s win over Wigan and Catalans’ draw at Warrington put them both four points ahead of Leeds, the Rhinos knew that they needed to win if they were to have a serious chance of finishing in the top eight, especially as Wakefield were three points ahead of them too.
Tonight’s draw does them no favours, and they will now have to win both of their remaining games and hope that Trinity are beaten by both Hull FC and Huddersfield in their last two fixtures of the regular rounds if they are to avoid the Qualifiers.
Trinity fight back
Having been 18-6 down in the first half it looked as though Wakefield may have caught Leeds on a bad night, but they responded well and deserved at least a point from the game for the fighting spirit they showed to keep themselves in it.
They showed good defence in the second half to prevent Leeds from adding to their three tries, and were on the front foot for much of the second forty. It was unfortunate that none of Miller’s attempts at a winner were successful, but they did enough to get a draw which should be enough for them to be in the Super 8’s.
Man Of The Match- Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos)
Winger Ryan Hall has been linked with a move away from the club at the end of the season when his contract expires, but his performance tonight showed that he is still committed to the cause.
His try opened the scoring while his strong running was a threat throughout the night and helped Leeds hugely, especially when the forwards were tiring and when returning kicks.
His efforts weren’t enough to help the Rhinos come away with a much needed win, but he led by example and got through a serious amount of work for his side.
LEEDS RHINOS 20
Tries: Hall, Myler, Handley.
Goals: Sutcliffe 4.
Drop Goals: n/a.
WAKEFIELD TRINITY 20
Tries: Tupou, Horo, Wood.
Goals: Hampshire 4.
Drop Goals: n/a.
Leeds Rhinos: Walker, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Handley, Hall, Moon, Myler, Garbutt, Dwyer, Singleton, Ablett, Ferres, Cuthbertson.
Replacements: Ward, Oledzki, Golding, Walters.
Wakefield Trinity: Jowitt, Jones-Bishop, Lyne, Tupou, Johnstone, Miller, Hampshire, England, Randell, Fifita, Horo, Ashurst, Annakin.
Replacements: Wood, Hirst, Pauli, Arona.
Referee: Robert Hicks.